If The Washington Post wanted to print an article guaranteed to maximize the chances that House Republicans would stick to their guns and allow the scheduled spending sequester to happen, they could not have done any better than the front page David Fahrenthold story published yesterday. Under the header, “Many 2011 federal budget cuts had little real-world effect,” Fahrenthold writes:
Late on the night of April 8, 2011, Washington’s leaders announced that they’d just done something extraordinary. They had agreed to cut the federal budget — and cut it big. … Today, an examination of 12 of the largest cuts shows that, thanks in part to these gimmicks, federal agencies absorbed $23 billion in reductions without losing a single employee. … At the Census Bureau, for instance, officials had already said they didn’t need the more than $6 billion they had spent the year before. That money had paid for the once-a-decade 2010 Census. There wasn’t, of course, another census planned in 2011. … At the Transportation Department, Congress canceled $630 million in “orphan earmarks.” These were the wandering ghosts of the highway budget: pots of money assigned for specific road projects, which were still sitting unspent years and years later. Often, this money seemed unlikely to ever be spent. Many projects had been canceled. In one case, the funds were earmarked for a road that did not even exist.
Later in the article, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola explained the effect these phantom cuts are having on the current sequester debate: “There has been a shift in resolve. They have been burned in these fictional cuts. And so the sequester is like real cuts. So I think that there is a willingness to say, ‘We’ve really got to cut stuff, and [the cuts] have got to be real.’”